Mary Cullings Lester '43, Richard Lester ’42
It was in October, 1939 of my freshman year, that my future mate walked into the room
where the Masquers were having their talent show so that aspiring members-to-be could
perform. At that particular time, I (Mary Cullings) was doing a humorous monologue
about a dentist and his eccentric patients. My admirer, (Richard Lester), although
he was in the back of the room and had never seen me before, has told me many times
that he fell in love with me at that moment. It was some time later before he managed
to arrange a blind date with me and another couple that we mutually knew.
On date night, as I came down the Kemp Hall stairs, I didn't see my friends, so I
didn't know which one of the crowd of young men waiting at the foot of the steps was
my date. However, I hoped it was the tall one grinning at me and with a dimple in
his cheek. And it was. The couple who was supposed to meet us there never showed up,
so we were on our own.
After that we dated frequently. One Saturday, when I was working alone in the Wesleyana
Yearbook room in the second story of Old North, the janitor padlocked the downstairs
door, not knowing I was inside. I opened one of the downstairs windows to try to climb
out, but it was too steep a drop for me to jump out. No one was in sight on the campus.
Just then, who should come strolling down the walk but my rescuer? Richard helped
me get out of the window safely, and I felt like a princess being rescued from a castle.
After Pearl Harbor, he left with a group of senior boys before his final semester
to go into the Signal Corps where he became an instructor.
By the time I graduated in 1943, we had wedding plans. We wanted to be married during
the time after Richard left the Signal Corps and before he started to work at the
Manhattan Project located in Chicago. It turned out there was just one weekend available,
which happened to be the Fourth of July. Dr. Corn, our Religion Professor, married
us in the Bible Garden next to Buck Library with our closest relatives attending.
It was a lovely sunny day. We had made no alternative plans in case of rain. Didn't
even consider such a possibility. We have always claimed that the whole nation celebrates
our anniversary and that we declared our interdependence on that day.
This Fourth of July will be our 59th anniversary. We have been blessed with long lives,
a happy marriage, four children and four grandchldren. We thank Illinois Wesleyan
for providing the opportunity to bring us together.
[Postscript] ….We would like to add a footnote to our account. At our wedding in the
Bible Garden by Buck Library, our attendants were Mary's brother, John Cullings, and
his wife, Thelma Arrowsmith Cullings, IWU Class of '32. Thelma had encouraged Mary
to come to Wesleyan. (Thelma attended her 65th class reunion at Bloomington in 1997.
As far as we know, she was the only one of that class there. She is still a remarkable
woman and an inspiration to her family.) — Submitted by Mary Cullings Lester '43 (husband
is Richard Lester ’42)